10 secrets from a private chef

I'm on a mission to get YOU in the kitchen. Since I spend a lot of my time there -- cooking for private clients, cheffing wellness retreats, and cooking for my family, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. And did you think I'd keep these to myself? OH, HELL NO! This week I'm dishing out my top 10 secrets that will give you all the confidence you need to cook in your kitchen like a true pro. Let's do this!

#1 - CONDIMENTS ARE YOUR BFF.
Condiments are the thing that will transform boring, simple ingredients to an out-of-this-world flavor explosion. Just a few condiments mixed together can make a sauce or dressing, and they add so much texture, flavor, and umph. Not sure where to begin? Check out the 8 condiments I can't live without.

#2 - HERBS ARE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER.
If condiments are your BFF, herbs are your special someone -- err, something. Adding herbs to a finished dish makes everything feel downright fancy shmancy with minimal effort involved. Not to mention all the flavor, health benefits, and visual appeal, herbs are everything. Ever feel like you buy them in bunches, only to throw them away at the end of the week? Read up on my 7 ways to use up your herbs.

#3 - ALL HAIL THE CHEF'S KNIFE.
Your cooking tools are just as important as the ingredients. No need to drop your savings into all new kitchen gadgets, but I do recommend you invest in the essentials -- most importantly a good chef's knife. You can find an 8" or 10" knife for $30-$100 on Amazon or any kitchen supply store. Always keep the edge sharp to avoid accidents (a dull knife = increased likelihood of accidental cuts!). Don't have a sharpening stone? Take it to your local Williams Sonoma and they'll sharpen your knives for a nominal fee. Bingo. 

#4 - SHOP SALES.
Purchase produce on sale as a way to try new things. Grocery stores always rotate their sales to make sure everything gets sold. Notice fennel is on sale? Try it. See a new leafy green you've never cooked before? Give it a whirl. This will keep things interesting so you'll never get bored of your home cooked food.

#5 - CHOOSE YOUR STORES WISELY.
Visit the places you can really save for the things you'll buy in bigger quantities, like Costco, Shop-Rite, Wegmans, etc. Then splurge on the higher quality stuff where it really matters, like artisan brands at Whole Foods, or a beautiful cut of grass-fed meat at your pricier local butcher shop. Typically those items will be needed in smaller amounts (I try to keep animal proteins to 20% of my plate to get all the veggies I need), which will help you save even more money in the long run.

#6 - STAY INSPIRED.
This is critical for EVERY home cook. Without inspiration, anything you make is going to taste bland, boring, and lackluster. The inspiration is key to infusing your food with love and energy! Go where you light up inside -- whether that's following dreamy food accounts on Instagram (some of my faves are @wellandgoodnyc, @lauraleabalanced, @mikaelareuben), reading your favorite food blogs (I love 101 Cookbooks, Goop Make, TheKitchn), going old-school with a magazine subscription (I heart Bon Appetit), or browsing through some trusty cookbooks. Whatever you need to do to get in the mood, do it on the reg, and your belly and soul will thank you for it. Need a place to start? Follow me on Instagram (and start drooling at my food below)...

#7 - ALWAYS BE LEARNING.
The food scene is in the midst of an explosion. There are more cooking channels, millions more cookbooks, and more food products than can fit into a single blog post. Every day brings a whirlwind of new food products. First it was quinoa, then brussel sprouts had a moment, followed by all things coconut, and right now it's collagen and adaptogenic herbs. There will always be new products, and the only way to stay engaged in the kitchen is to try them. Don't feel pressure to go overboard all at once. Every few weeks, treat yourself to a new product at the grocery store. That will keep your budget in check, your taste buds intrigued, and your water cooler conversation topics up to date.

#8 - AMAZON IS YOUR SECRET WEAPON.
You can find almost anything on there for the lowest prices -- gadgets, kitchen tools, spices, and even supplements. And with Amazon Prime, almost anything can be at your fingertips in time for your cooking festivities -- sometimes even the day of! Are you the busiest person you know? Well then, Amazon is definitely your secret weapon. 

#9 - COOKING IS BEING OF SERVICE.
When I'm cooking for clients, I am putting their needs front and center. How can I best feed them? How can I nourish their bodies and souls? How can I make a positive impact in their lives? And when I'm cooking for myself and my family, I ask those same questions. Cooking is a service, to yourself, to your body, to your livelihood. Every time you cook, think of it as doing a service to your highest good. And just in case you needed more reasons to get in the kitchen, read my list of 10 reasons to cook.

#10 - BATCH COOKING SAVES THE DAY.
Did you really think I'd get through a blog post without talking about my favorite thing ever, batch cooking?! I cannot speak enough about this life saver! Batch cooking is taking time once a week to prepare batches of food that can be mix-and-matched in various combinations throughout the week. This way there's food ready to go for even the busiest of weeks, and you'll never get bored with your meals (no more turkey chili for 5 days in a row, thank goodness!). Need a place to begin? All the recipes on my website are perfect for batch cooking, read up and get inspired!

Now I want to hear from YOU. Which of these secrets did you find more valuable? What are you excited to start trying in your weekly meal prep? And what are some of YOUR kitchen secrets? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy & healthy,
Michelle